Sexual Orientation Theories

homoeroticism = homosexuality theories. The concept of sexual orientation refers to the focus and direction of an individual's sexual interest. Heterosexual orientation is sexual attraction to members of the opposite sex/gender; homosexual orientation is sexual attraction to members of one's own sex/gender; and bisexual orientation is sexual attraction to both sexes/genders. Historically, the German physician, sex researcher, and homosexual Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) supported some hormonal theories of homosexuality that led others to attempt unsuccessfully to "cure" homosexuality with hormone injections; he also endorsed the Urnings theory (i.e., a theory dealing with the issue of men who are sexually attracted to other men) of the German jurist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) who argued in 1864 that "Urnings" are "hermaphrodites of the mind." Whereas Ulrichs asserted that the "Urning disposition" is natural and inborn, later authorities - such as the German physician Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) - labeled "Urningism" a mental illness, and others called it a "sexual inversion." In 1886, Krafft-Ebing combined Urning theory with the French physician Benedict A. Morel's (18091873) theory of disease and concluded that most homosexuals have a mental disorder caused by "degenerate heredity" (called the degeneracy theory). Krafft-Ebing's degeneracy theory was influential until the beginning of the 20th century when Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical orientation became popular as a potential explanation of sexual orientation

(cf., Friedman & Downey, 2002; Gamets & Kimmel, 2003; Mondimore, 1996; Phillips, 2003). A noteworthy event regarding the social view of homosexuality occurred in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) deleted "homosexuality" as a psychiatric disorder from their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (APA's "bible of nosology"). Surveys conducted in the late 1940s and early 1950s reported that about ten percent of the general American population was homosexual; more recent surveys in the 1990s, however, of American, English, and French populations indicate that only about three percent of men and one-and-one-half percent of women have a homosexual orientation. The theoretical issue of why people display different sexual orientations has been argued for decades, usually along the lines of the classical nature versus nurture debate. Proponents of the nature, or biological, side of the issue hold that sexual orientation has its roots in biology and physiology and is influenced primarily by genetics; those on the nurture, or environmental and learning, side hold that sexual orientation is a learned behavior primarily and is influenced primarily by early experience and largely under the individual's voluntary control. Advocates of the nature position argue that homosexual men and women generally know before puberty that they are "different" and often re-main "in the closet" regarding their sexual orientation for fear of personal and social recrimination; the nature proponents cite evidence from family and twin studies that shows a higher incidence of male homosexuality in families having other gay men, as well as a higher rate of homosexuality among men with a homosexual twin, even when the twins are raised in separate environments; they also cite studies indicating that the sizes of specific brain structures may differ between homosexual and heterosexual men (cf., Allen & Gorski, 1992; LeVay, 1991, 1993; LeVay & Ham-er, 1994; Swaab & Hoffman, 1995). Advocates of the nurture position of sexual orientation argue that the research supporting the nature position basically is flawed methodologically and sometimes confuses the issue of what causes homosexuality with what results from it; these advocates assert, also, that early sexual experiences and socialization (including gender nonconformity and rejection or attachment-avoidance by parents and peers) determines sexual orientation, and cite evidence showing that the frequency of different sexual orientations differs significantly from one culture to another [cf., the roles played in this debate by speculations such as performativity theory (i.e., deconstruction of foundational ideas of gender/sexual identity, or "gender as performance;" Butler, 1991; Hegarty, 1997); feminist theory (i.e., the theory suggesting that gender is a major social, historical, and political concept that influences women's choices in all communities and cultures; Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1997; Squier & Little-field, 2004; Stewart & McDermott, 2004); deviance theory (i.e., the focus on cognitive stereotypes, and perceptions of threats to society, Plasek, 1984); psychotherapeutic theory (i.e., the methods employed by therapists in treating gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; Ritter & Terndrup, 2002); the fraternal birth order effect (i.e., the probability that a man being homosexual is related positively to his number of older brothers, but not older sisters when the brothers are accounted for; James, 2004); anthropometric/ steroid theory (i.e., bone morphology, as a marker of childhood sex steroid exposure, suggests that there are physical differences in heterosexuals and homosexuals, where persons with a sexual preference for men have less long bone growth in the arms, legs, and hands than those with a sexual preference for women; Martin & Nguyen, 2004); differential risk theory (i.e., a theory subsumed under social exchange and equity theories where, in this case, numerous gender differences involved in long-term relationships require members of such close relationships to assume greater interpersonal and social risks and costs as those compared to same-gender relationships; Schumm, 2004); evolutionary theory (i.e., the evolutionary value of human homosexuality via the strengthening of social bonds; DeBlock & Adriaens, 2004; Schuiling, 2004); and the tend and befriend theory of stress and coping (i.e., the speculation that men and women are hardwired biologically to cope with stress differently, based on differing evolutionary paths; Taylor, 2002)]. Thus, homosexuality is viewed as a complex and multi-factorial issue where its etiology ranges from the biological and evolutionary to the psychological and social, and from the essential and materialist to the constructionist. Currently, it appears that neither the nature view nor the nurture view can explain exclusively or completely the origin of sexual orientation and, as is the case with most complex psychological behaviors, it is likely that both nature and nurture play significant roles in one's sexual orientation. See also DARWIN'S EVOLUTION THEORY; EQUITY THEORY; FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY; LABELING/DEVIANCE THE-ORY; NATURE VERSUS NURTURE THE-ORIES; SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY. REFERENCES

Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1887/1924). Psychopa-

thia sexualis. Stuttgart: Enke. Plasek, J. W. (1984). Misconceptions of homophobia. Journal of Homosexuality, 10, 23-37. Deaux, K., & Major, B. (1987). Putting gender into context: An interactive model of gender-related behavior. PsychologicalReview, 94, 369-389. Butler, J. (1991). Imitation and gender insubordination. In D. Fuss (Ed.), Inside/outside-Lesbian theories, gay theories. London: Routledge. LeVay, S. (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men. Science, 253, 1034-1038. Allen, L. S., & Gorski, R. A. (1992). Sexual orientation and size of the anterior commissure in the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 89, 7199-7202. LeVay, S. (1993). The sexual brain. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press. LeVay, S., & Hamer, D. H. (1994). Evidence for a biological influence in male homosexuality. Scientific American (May), 44-49. Swaab, D. F., & Hoffman, M. A. (1995). Sexual differentiation of the human hypothalamus in relation to gender and sexual orientation. Trends in neuroscience, 18, 264-270.

Mondimore, F. M. (1996). A natural history of homosexuality. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., & Tarule, J. (1997). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.

Hegarty, P. (1997). Materializing the hypothalamus: A performative account of the "gay brain." Feminism & Psychology, 7, 355-372.

Friedman, R. C., & Downey, J. I. (2002). Sexual orientation and psychoanalysis: Sexual science and clinical practice. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ritter, K. Y., & Terndrup, A. I. (2002). Handbook of affirmative psychotherapy with lesbians and gay men. New York: Guilford Press.

Taylor, S. E. (2002). The tending instinct: How nurturing is essential to who we are and how we live. New York: Holt.

(2003). Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Phillips, S. H. (2003). Homosexuality: Coming out of the confusion. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 84, 1431-1450.

DeBlock, A., & Adriaens, P. (2004). Dar-winizing sexual ambivalence: A new evolutionary hypothesis of male homosexuality. Philosophical Psychology, 17, 59-76.

James, W. H. (2004). The cause(s) of the fraternal birth order effect in male homosexuality. Journal of Biosocial Science, 36, 51-62.

Martin, J. T., & Nguyen, D. H. (2004). An-thropometric analysis of homosexuals and heterosexuals: Implications for early hormone exposure. Hormones & Behavior, 45, 31-39.

Schuiling, G. A. (2004). Death in Venice: The homosexuality enigma. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 25, 67-76.

Schumm, W. R. (2004). Differential risk theory as a subset of social exchange theory: Implications for making gay marriage culturally normative and for understanding stigma against homosexuals. Psychological Reports, 94, 208-210. Squier, S., & Littlefield, M. (Eds.) (2004).

Feminist theory and/or science. Feminist Theory (Special Issue), 5, 123-126.

Stewart, A. J., & McDermott, C. (2004). Gender in psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 519-544.

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  • tommy
    Why is the interactional model the best theory for sexual orientation?
    1 month ago

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